AUTONOMY, DIVERSITY & DISABILITY: EVERYDAY PRACTICES OF TECHNOLOGY

Artificial Intelligence is now everywhere. Smart phones hear and respond to our voices. They capture images and tell us what they see. They recognise faces in a crowd, and produce meaningful answers to questions.

Yet these powerful effects depend on the ways Artificial Intelligence systems are trained. Data that fails to represent the diversity of human societies can lead to damaging bias in how these systems operate.

Run at Western Sydney University, the ADDEPT project looks to understand how diverse communities use technology in their everyday life. It will examine how and when bias and other technology issues impede, frustrate or disadvantage two distinct groups: people with disability, and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.

We're not only interested in technology's pitfalls. Many people from these communities benefit from technological advances. They also find ways to adapt and workaround technological limits, in ways that are often individual and creative, and not always documented.

Greater evidence of these practices can help address bias and advance a more inclusive technological environment:

  • Communities can use this evidence to advocate, and to share their own innovations in how technology is applied.
  • Researchers and companies can improve on the ways AI and other technologies are designed and developed.
  • Service organisations can prepare guides and workarounds to help overcome technology gaps.
  • Governments can set policies that demand greater recognition and inclusion of social groups often marginalised and excluded from technology user groups and training data.

Many people, groups and organisations are looking to study and address these issues. The ADDEPT project brings a specific focus to groups in the South West and North East suburbs of Sydney - areas with large migrant populations, increasingly reliant upon AI and other advanced technology in their daily lives.

THE PROJECT

New AI-driven consumer technologies—smart speakers, robot personal assistants, self-driving vehicles, translation and speech synthesis applications— are set to become an increasingly common feature of everyday life. For people living with a disability from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities, these technologies have capacity to enable new forms of social inclusion, but also to drive further exclusion due to lack of access, risks to users or deepened stigmatization.

This research project, developed by a research team at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) at Western Sydney University, investigates how current and emerging consumer autonomous technologies (AT) can work to strengthen or impede inclusive participation for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds living with disability in urban Australia.

The project seeks to work in collaborative partnership with multicultural and disability organisations who have identified the challenges and opportunities of autonomous technologies in facilitating access to information, services and resources across disability, multicultural and mainstream platforms.

We work from the understanding that AT holds the potential to positively transform the lives of people at the disability/CaLD intersection, as well as benefit the sector organisations that service and represent them, yet acknowledge its inherent risks, costs and challenges.

Focussing on two urban areas of Sydney (Lower Northshore and Southwest), the project will study the current and potential impact of AT on three key practices of everyday life and avenues for everyday social inclusion – mobility, communication and leisure – for people from CaLD backgrounds living with disability.

AIMS

The project aims to:
  1. map the interstices of disability and migrant populations and existing services across these two areas
  2. examine existing use, adaptation and future needs in relation to autonomous technologies for people living with disability from CaLD backgrounds in these areas in relation to practices of mobility, communication and leisure
  3. document issues of disability stigmatisation, exclusion and risk within differing ethno-cultural communities, and, through detailed research with these communities, document ways autonomous technologies currently address or exacerbate such issues
  4. co-develop accessible guidelines, resources and strategies on the adoption and adaption of autonomous technologies with disability and migrant populations, service providers and the technology industry, covering technology use, accessibility, adaptability, personal and organizational risk, and affordability

The four-year project will involve a suite of collaborative data collection and knowledge sharing methods, drawing on the project team’s research expertise. Key methods include mapping demographic trends, existing resources and stakeholders in the two urban sites; participant self-documentation of everyday technology use; media production workshops for participant-users; and development of a resource kit to enable individuals, organisations and communities to make informed, reflexive and autonomous decisions about their engagements with AT.

WHO WE ARE

RESEARCH TEAM

The project brings together a team of ICS senior researchers, with a suite of expertise crossing disability, cultural diversity and technology. Team members each bring broad experience and deep commitment to collaborative, partnerships-based research with long-term real-world impact.

Associate Professor Karen Soldatic is a leading scholar globally in critical disability studies who also brings nine years of experience as a senior policy advisor in for the Disabilities Services Commission to this project.

Associate Professor Liam Magee is a researcher working on social impacts of emerging technology systems, standards and infrastructure. A former software developer and project manager, as an academic Liam continues to collaborate with private and public sectors on cutting-edge research projects.

Associate Professor Shanthi Robertson is a leading researcher and media commentator on contemporary migration, cultural diversity and urban social inclusion. She has worked in partnership with local government on enhancing social inclusion in multicultural communities and has provided expert policy inputs at a federal level.

Dr. Kim Spurway is a former international development practitioner with extensive project management experience with cross-sectoral and diverse teams.

Professor Paul James is an internationally renowned theorist of urbanism and globalization, with a passion for engaged research working on community resilience and urban sustainability.

PROJECT PARTNERS

Your Side Australia

Partner Investigator: Snow Li

Your Side is a leading provider of support services for older people, people living with disability, mental health, and their carers throughout Sydney. They provide total care solutions as a one-stop shop for services that will bring their clients health and wellness.

Link: https://yourside.org.au/

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre

Partner Investigator: Di McClaughlin

Casula Powerhouse is a cultural facility of the Liverpool City Council, providing access to the arts that everyone can relate to, understand and appreciate. Casula runs an extensive and successful Arts and Health workshop and outreach program that engages a wide range of community members with disability and CaLD backgrounds.

Link: https://www.casulapowerhouse.com/

Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre

Partner Investigator: Rachel Haywood

WSMRC champions the diverse community of the Liverpool region to be empowered, informed and connected. Western Sydney MRC runs services and programs to promote access and equity for diverse communities and to identify and meet the needs of particular disadvantaged groups.

Link: https://wsmrc.org.au/

Gallery Lane Cove

Partner Investigator: Rachael Kiang

Gallery Lane Cove is a not-for-profit art centre located in the heart of Lane Cove. Gallery Lane Cove is committed to developing visual arts in Lane Cove and the greater North Shore through its integrated gallery and studios program. It encourages collaboration across regions and disciplines and fosters creative exchange

Link: https://www.gallerylanecove.com.au

Microsoft

Partner Investigator: Lida Ghahremanlou

Microsoft is a multinational technology company that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Microsoft is committed to revolutionizing access to technology for people living with disabilities—impacting employment and quality of life for more than a billion people in the world.

Link: http://www.microsoft.com

ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

Mark Tonga, Independent Disability Expert

David Masters, Microsoft Australia

Patrick McGee, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations

Jessica Leefe, NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation

Wendy Rose, Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre

Alicia Rodriguez, Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association

Debra Bourdignon, Dimension Data

CONTACT

Please contact Project Manager Kim Spurway for further information.

Email: k.spurway@westernsydney.edu.au